Ted Conlin Stories: Part Four - Leaving For England

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.  ~Cynthia Ozick

Ted Leaves The USA For England

Part 1 - Introduction | Part 2 - The War Timeline | Part 3 - Training
Part 4 - To Europe | Part 5 - Post D-Day Support

We left Boston Harbor after a heavy snow storm in late February, 1944 bound for the European Theatre of War with our destination being Liverpool, England. Our means of transport was a captured German liner of World War I vintage and was very well maintained for all those years in captivity.

Did you know? - Allied convoy systems during World War II achieved worldwide dimensions, owing to the phenomenal range of Germany's commerce-raiding effort, which included a substantial Luftwaffe threat in the North Sea, the Arctic, and the Mediterranean. The Allies virtually eliminated Germany's surface raiders during 1943, but German U-boats, operating singly or in "wolf packs" of fifty or more submarines, extended "tonnage warfare" strategy from the North Atlantic to the Caribbean, the South Atlantic, and ultimately the Indian Ocean. Allied experience indicated both the suicidal impracticality of independent merchantman sailings and the striking economy of large convoy formations, particularly as land and carrier-based air cover, pinpoint location of individual stalkers by radar and high-frequency direction finders, and evasive convoy-routing procedures increasingly hampered U-boat reconnaissance patrolling

 After a stormy crossing of some five days, we landed at our port and offloaded to trains for a trip across the English countryside to our ultimate destination, Goxhill, a training facility on the east coast.

It was there that we were acquainted with the mighty war bird, the P51B and where we were trained in the coastal requirements of procedures of British Coastal Defenses and uses of the radio systems and the new devices known as radar.

Gaxhill 1943
Goxhill Training Facility 1946

Did you know? - RAF Goxhill is a former Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force station in England. It is located just to the east of the village of Goxhill, on the south bank of the Humber estuary, opposite the city of Kingston upon Hull, in north Lincolnshire.

Then
Then!

The base was relegated to satellite field use by RAF Kirmington until August 1942, when it was taken over by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). The transfer ceremony was attended by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. During World War II it was known as USAAF Station 345.

Now
60 years later (2002)

The facilities at Goxhill, however, had a lot to be desired. Three wooden barracks were supplemented by a number of metal fabricated buildings (aka: tin cans) for living quarters. Typical of the RAF bases of that period, living quarters and mess facilities were 1-2 miles from the hangars and flight operations area.

The station was unofficially known by the USAAF units based here as "GoatHill".

Goxhill Airfield
Airfield today

The USAAF used Goxhill as a training base though the balance of the war, with several squadrons using it after their initial deployment to the UK, then moving on to a permanent facility for their operational missions.

Six Weeks Later We Were Deployed To The 357th Fighter Group ("The Yoxford Boys")

A period of six weeks was spent at Goxhill and then we were split into replacement units. In my case, ten of us were assigned to the three squadrons of the 357th Fighter Group at station 373 in the village area of Leiston and Yoxford. (Raydon, UK 30 Nov 43 – 31 Jan 44 and Leiston, UK 31 Jan 44 – 8 Jul 45)

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16 December 1942 -
20 August 1946

Did you know? - The 357th Fighter Group was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War. The 357th operated P-51 Mustang aircraft as part of the U.S. Eighth Air Force and its members were known unofficially as "The Yoxford Boys" after a village near their base. (Group tradition holds that the name was the invention of Lord Haw Haw in a broadcast greeting the night of its arrival at RAF Leiston.) Its victory totals in air-to-air combat are the most of any P-51 group in the Eighth Air Force and third among all groups fighting in Europe.

The 357th arrived in England at the turn of 1943/44 and was committed to combat on 11 February 1944, the first Group of the 8th AF to fly the mighty mustang.

Motto: Semper Omnia (All Things at All Times)

The 357th flew 313 combat missions between 11 February 1944 and 25 April 1945. It is officially credited by the U.S. Air Force with having destroyed 595.5 German airplanes in the air and 106.5 on the ground. The 357th existed as a USAAF unit only during World War II and its immediate aftermath. Its history, lineage and honors were bestowed on an Ohio Air National Guard group, but the Ohio ANG considers itself a direct descendant of the 357th FG.

The Group had moved in to that base at the end of January, 1944 from Raydon Wood near Ipswitch. The ten of us were dispersed into the three squadrons with two of my friends and I being assigned to the 362nd. Three went to the 363rd and the other four to the 364th.

May 1944 The First Military Assignment ( See Timeline )

We settled into the routine of learning the art of war, they called it Clobber College. We flew local missions of getting to know the area, flying formation, familiarizing with radio protocol and becoming familiar with weather problems, which were many in the coastal areas of England. Finally, we were given our first mission assignments, in May.

Did you know? - "Kit" Carson was on the verge of heading for the Pacific with a P-39 outfit, but instead joined the 357th. His first victory was on April 8, 1944. His chosen technique for success was to bore in close to his victim, rather than rely on deflection shooting. He chalked up the bulk of his score during the final six months of the war, flying Nooky Booky IV. He ran 'Clobber College' the 357th's combat school, for a time, passing on his skills.

When training, he emphasized the challenges of flying seven-hour missions in the harsh weather of Northwestern Europe. He stressed the importance of the "two-ship" element, and the defensive strengths of the P-51. "Do anything you can to break his line of sight on you. Once you've done that, he can't lay a glove on you." He insisted that the new pilots master instrument flying, a necessity in the rain, snow, ice, and poor visibility of the ETO. "Anyone who has a casual attitude toward flying in this climate is going to wind up wearing an 8,000 pound coffin at the bottom of the North Sea." He noted that they should all become intimately familiar with the east coast of England, as the biggest aid in zeroing in on home base.

For gunnery, he encouraged the new pilots to close in from behind, noting the difficulties of deflection shooting. "Get dead astern and drive in to 200 yards or less, right down to 50 yards and fire a couple of one-second bursts." He told the pilots to think about six and seven hour missions, and to dress as if they "were going to have to walk out of Germany."

My first was called "radio relay". I was called aside at the briefing on May 13 and informed I was to be a radio relay. The Group had been informed that the mission that day was Big B, Berlin and I was told that I would relay messages from the leader, Col. Graham, at the target area, as to his observations at the target site.

I had no idea as to what my duties entailed but the briefing guys told me to fly a course into the North Sea to an altitude of 25,000 ft, set up a parallel pattern and wait for further information from the Col. I was airborne for 5 hours out there and had quite a time trying to relay the info to London. It was a strange flight for me.

That was the start of my 71 missions during my tour which was a total of 270 combat hours.

The next mission of note for me was on May 21, a Sunday, The squadron was sent to Germany for a fighter sweep. We had a full cloud cover beneath us so we never were certain as to our exact location and so we ran into heavy flak over Hanover.  It scattered us like a flock of geese and I wound up with two other  guys, Lt. Ankeny, the flight leader and Lt. Rodney Starkey.

We strafed an airfield at Tarnewitz and I was credited with an e/a destroyed in front of a hangar. The other two hit aircraft on the tarmac and probably were credited with several destroyed.

June 6th D-Day Assignment

June 6th, was the big one, D Day and I was assigned to fly the wing of the squadron commander. Capt. Joe Broadhead. We took off at 5 am on instruments and broke out at 26,000 off the Normandy coast  near the Jersey and Guernsey islands almost at H hour which was 6 am. Joe wanted to get a look at the invasion so he and I went back down to the deck to have a look.

Just prior to our reaching 2,000 ft. we heard on the radio that 2 ME109s did a strafing along the beachhead so we missed them by inches. After a sweep of the area, we climbed back to our assigned level for a patrol that lasted for another several hours. According to my flight log, we were airborne for 8 hrs 15 min.

P51
Strafing operations on D-Day

Part 1 - Introduction | Part 2 - The War Timeline | Part 3 - Training
Part 4 - To Europe | Part 5 - Post D-Day Support